The Duke Blue Devils and Syracuse Orange will make Division I men’s college basketball history Wednesday night when two coaches with 1,000 career wins face each other for the first time.
No. 10 Duke (22-5, 10-4 ACC) will carry a seven-game winning streak into the Carrier Dome against Syracuse (16-12, 8-7) in first game of an ESPN doubleheader featuring four Hall of Fame coaches: Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Louisville’s Rick Pitino.
Krzyzewski is the leader with 1,065 wins. Boeheim is No. 2 with 1,001 wins and an asterisk — that total includes 101 wins vacated by the NCAA because the Orange violated NCAA rules from 2004-07 and 2010-12.
Still, most of the college basketball world outside of the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis credits Boeheim with 1,0001 wins, making him and Krzyzewski the only coaches in Division I history with more than 1,000.
Krzyzewski recently turned 71 and Boeheim, 72, is expected to retire after next season, so next year’s Duke-Syracuse game or games will likely be the last time we’ll see this kind of matchup for a long time.
Williams (806) and Pitino (765) are next on the wins list among active coaches, and they’re still a long way from 1,000.
What makes the matchup even more intriguing is that Krzyzewski and Boeheim are close friends. When USA Basketball tabbed Krzyzewski to coach its team after a bronze-medal finish in the 2004 Olympics, Krzyzewski named Boeheim as one of his assistants and they won gold in 2008, 2012 and 2016.
Krzyzewski called to congratulate Boeheim after he posted his 1,000th win on Feb. 4 against Virginia. Under NCAA rules, Syracuse and Boeheim could not acknowledge the milestone victory, but Boeheim shed some light on his personal feelings by saying, “I know how many wins I’ve had and I’m very proud of it.”
“We love seeing coach happy because he works so hard, he cares so much, (and) just to see his work pay off means a lot to me and for me to be able to help him (win his 1,000th game) and be just a little part of it is huge,” Syracuse fifth-year senior transfer point guard John Gillon said.
Wednesday’s game is also huge for a Syracuse team that’s reeling with three consecutive losses that have put the Orange squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Since they have played far better at home than on the road (14-3 at the Dome, 2-9 on road or neutral courts), Duke represents Syracuse’s last best chance to notch a quality win for its tournament resume.
Syracuse lost 71-65 at Georgia Tech on Sunday night after a controversial moving screen call against Tyler Roberson with 15 seconds remaining robbed the Orange of a chance to tie the score or go ahead.
“We knew it was a big game for us,” freshman guard Tyus Battle told syracuse.com after the game. “Now every game from here on out is a big game for us. We’ll be ready for the next few. We’re back at home against Duke. They’re a really good team. That would be a really big win for us.”
Duke is perhaps the hottest team in college basketball. The Blue Devils have won seven consecutive games and are 5-0 since Krzyzewski returned after sitting out most of January following back surgery. Duke has overcome several obstacles this season — injuries to key players, Krzyzewski’s absence, and the ongoing scrutiny of guard Grayson Allen’s on-court conduct — to pull within one game of North Carolina (11-4) in the ACC standings.
Duke defeated No. 8 North Carolina 86-78 on Feb. 9 at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and the rivals will meet again March 4 at the Dean Smith Center in the game that could decide the conference regular-season champion.
Duke won its seventh consecutive game Saturday, when ACC Player of the Year candidate Luke Kennard scored 23 points and freshman forward Jayson Tatum added 19 in a 99-94 win over Wake Forest at Cameron.
While Duke is winning, it’s not dominating. None of the seven wins were decided by more than 10 points, and the Blue Devils’ average margin of victory in that span is 6.4 points.
“We’re trying to teach them how hard it is to win,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s easy to lose. It’s hard to win, because it’s not just about, ‘I want to, I’m prepared, I have a good attitude.’ You have to keep an edge.”
That shouldn’t be a problem Wednesday. Syracuse is expecting a crowd of about 30,000. The two previous Duke-Syracuse games at the Carrier Dome sold out and set the NCAA on-campus record with crowds of 35,446.
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